WASHINGTON - Michael Cohen, who for a decade was U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney and fixer, sued the Trump Organization on Thursday, claiming he is owed $3.8 million in legal fees and money he spent on behalf of Trump's business empire but now is being forced to forfeit because of the ongoing criminal case against him.
Cohen once declared that he would "take a bullet" for the real estate mogul who became president. But Cohen broke off his relationship with Trump after federal agents raided Cohen's New York properties in April 2018. Last week, in public testimony before a congressional committee, Cohen described Trump as a racist, a con man and a cheat.
In the suit Cohen filed in New York state Supreme Court, Cohen claimed that the Trump Organization had a "contractual agreement" with him to pay him for his legal work and costs he incurred for his work "with and on behalf of" company officials. He said he is owed $1.9 million in legal fees and another $1.9 million for money he has had to forfeit to the government for work he did for the Trump Organization.
The work for the Trump Organization, the lawsuit said, involved dealing with the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who for 22 months has been probing Trump campaign links to Russia and whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe. Mueller is nearing the end of his investigation and could soon turn over his concluding report to the U.S. Justice Department.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to financial crimes and lying to Congress on Trump's behalf. He has been ordered to report to prison in May to start a three-year term.
In the last week, Cohen has testified for four days before congressional panels, in public for a day and behind closed doors for three days, about his actions on behalf of Trump before and after he became president. He has testified that at Trump's direction he made or helped facilitate $280,000 in hush money payments to an adult film actress and a Playboy model shortly before the 2016 election to keep them quiet about sexual encounters they claim to have had with Trump more than a decade ago, affairs Trump has denied.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress by claiming in early 2017 that Trump had ended his efforts a year earlier to secure rights to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, when actually the overtures extended until mid-2016. Cohen said Trump signaled to him how he was to testify but did not direct him to lie.
In his public testimony, Cohen said he had not sought a pardon from Trump. "I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump," Cohen said.
But that claim has now come under scrutiny.
Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis on Thursday acknowledged that Cohen, before he broke off relations with Trump last year, had his then-attorney "explore the possibilities of a pardon" with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other lawyers advising Trump.